Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Austin Public Health Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations With Limited Supply

For immediate release: January 5, 2021
Contact: Austin-Travis County Joint Information System, 512-974-0699, hsempio@austintexas.gov

Austin Public Health Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations with Limited Supply

DSHS continues to oversee vaccine allocation and distribution in Austin-Travis County 
Austin, Texas – Last week, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released a statement encouraging vaccine providers to begin vaccinating individuals who fall within Phase 1B, which includes those over the age of 65 and people with medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19. Some Texas cities have received more vaccine than others and will be further ahead in operations with administrating the vaccine community-wide.    

DSHS enrolls providers across the State of Texas to provide the vaccine. Each provider must work with the State of Texas and meet their requirements to become a provider. DSHS decides which provider will receive the vaccine, including how much and when they will receive it. DSHS is providing notification of approximately one week prior to shipment on how many doses providers can expect to distribute.  

On Monday, Dec. 28 Austin Public Health (APH) received its first allocation of 1,000 doses of Moderna vaccine from DSHS, which APH began distributing that afternoon. An additional 300 doses were received on Tuesday, Dec. 29 as part of the DSHS Week 3 allocation.  

The vaccines were distributed by APH at a set location for Phase 1A populations, specifically APH direct health care staff, direct COVID-19 response staff, Travis County Jail direct health care clinical staff, long-term care staff and residents that are not enrolled with a vaccine provider, hospice and home health care workers, first responders that meet 1A criteria, school nurses that are not enrolled with another vaccine provider, and other frontline healthcare staff. 740 people have been vaccinated through this closed clinic as of Thursday Dec. 31 and we will distribute the remainder this week as additional frontline staff return to work.  

"There is not enough vaccine from the state and federal government to provide to our community," said APH Director Stephanie Hayden. "APH is rapidly distributing vaccine to individuals who meet the State's definition of Phase 1A, however, the small allocation does not allow us to offer vaccine to Phase 1B individuals at this time. APH is hopeful and advocating for larger volumes of vaccine in the future so that we can serve more people who don't have access to healthcare." 

Hayden added: "We also understand from conversations with other providers that the demand for vaccine in Phase 1B is far exceeding the supply of many providers across the Austin-Travis County area, who are also still focused on Phase 1A." 

APH does not oversee other providers and their individual distribution plans. However, APH is working across the healthcare system and the vaccine coalition to set guidelines that support the CDC and DSHS framework for distribution that will also advocate for equitable distribution.  

Individuals wishing to get the COVID-19 vaccine who are in Phase 1A or Phase 1B should contact the provider they normally receive their vaccines from like their flu shot, to learn about their process. However, those in Phase 1B should be aware that they may not be able to receive the vaccine until additional supply is available in our community. 

As a reminder, APH is neither the distributor nor allocator of COVID-19 vaccines for all of Austin-Travis County, but rather is one of more than 350 local providers and an informational hub. While APH cannot regulate prioritization of other providers, the health department's first priority is to serve as a safety net for the most vulnerable members in Austin-Travis County when more vaccine is provided to the department. We will be coordinating with other safety net vaccine providers such as CommUnityCare, Lone Star Circle of Care, and People's Community Clinic to identify equity gaps in vaccine distribution. If more vaccine is provided to APH, we will open large sites in Austin and Travis County, with a focus on areas known to have lack of access to healthcare providers, for those without insurance to receive vaccine.  

"We understand the importance of providing the vaccine in communities most impacted by coronavirus," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "Prior to the pandemic, we knew access to healthcare in Travis County has been limited for various reasons. APH will focus on ensuring we are meeting the gap in the community by providing vaccines in areas with higher positivity rates, to communities living in poverty, uninsured and people that don't have access to transportation." 

Escott added: "The ability to respond to the surge will determine our ability to distribute vaccine. The same resources planning vaccine distribution are also managing testing sites and caring for patients during this record-breaking surge. We need to help our public health and healthcare workers by flattening the curve." 

B-roll and Interview 

B-roll and an interview with Derrick McKnight, APH Deputy Testing Supervisor (and APH COVID-19 vaccine recipient) is available at this Dropbox link. Media are free to use the footage with credit to Austin Public Health.  

The vaccine clinic is a closed facility and media will not be permitted to film or interview at the facility. For media questions about the clinic or the vaccine, please email hsempio@austintexas.gov or call 512-974-0699.  

For information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas, visit dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine.aspx. For information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Austin-Travis County, visit austintexas.gov/covid19-vaccines.